Here’s why the COP26 global climate change conference matters to Minnesotans – SC Times
Dozens of Minnesotans will be among the delegates from 197 countries at COP26, the 26th United Nations climate change conference hosted in Scotland this year.
“My personal feeling is that global warming is death by a thousand cuts,” said Lee Morgan, who will attend COP26.
Morgan is the founder and convener of the St. Cloud chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and president of the Morgan Family Foundation which supports efforts to combat global warming among other goals.
He points to the rising price of his home insurance and the fact that walleye no longer reproduce naturally in Clearwater Lake as signs that climate change is impacting us here in central Minnesota.
Recent drought and wildfire in the state and catastrophic events across the U.S. (including extreme cold and power disruptions in Texas and a deadly heatwave in the northwest) also indicate that climate change is here.
The results of the COP26 conference will be felt in the U.S. and Minnesota as well.
The conference runs from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12. Participating countries will report how they are doing on previous commitments to combat climate change and make new commitments to ramp up their efforts. Other attendees go to demonstrate for change or learn about global policy and solutions.
The ultimate goal now, which was agreed to in the 2015 Paris climate agreement, is to keep global average temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius (or about 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).
“If all the countries right now actually made good on their nationally determined contributions, we are looking at 2.6 degrees of warming,” said College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Corrie Grosse.
Grosse has attended COP three times and teaches a course centered around it. Instead of taking students to Scotland this year, they will participate in a simulation of COP, to avoid risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The key to success will be for countries to commit to more greenhouse gas emissions and then to follow through with those commitments at home. All this is tied to President Joe Biden’s efforts to work out an agreement on his Build Back Better proposal that includes hundreds of billions of dollars for clean energy and other efforts to combat climate change.
“Nothing is going to affect the U.S. (from COP26) unless we pass it at the national level,” Grosse said. That’s the case for most democratic countries, but the U.S. is unique because climate change is more politicized here than elsewhere and not everyone believes the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and caused by humans.
If the global community fails to act, Minnesotans can expect more natural disasters, warmer winters with less lake ice and an influx of climate refugees, Grosse said. These will affect us in Stearns County.
In 2019, the delegates at COP25 failed to iron out details for part of the Paris agreement dealing with carbon markets, carbon taxes and other market-based mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gases, Grosse said. They will resume that work this year.
The work at COP26 is like the foundational cake in a multi-layer cake, said University of Minnesota Extension Climate Scientist Heidi Roop. Agreements there could lead to policy and then funding that flows to Minnesota.
One challenge (among many) that will likely arise at the summit is that poorer countries will need financial assistance from richer countries to meet their goals.
It’s easy to feel defeated about the issue of climate change, Roop said. But we still have the opportunity to act and there’s hope and power in the choices ahead.
But, she cautioned, “we don’t have a lot of time to dilly dally.”